What is a Background Music Licence?

More than ever, music and technology have become ever present elements to our day. Whether we’re strolling through a shopping centre to Bieber’s beats or enjoying a brew at a local cafe while listening to Kendrick Lamar on our headphones; the heavy influence of music on our daily activities is undeniable. Unconsciously, silence has become quite foreign to us as we allow background music to create and mould the atmosphere in our environments.

At the same time, background music is a vital part of how a business markets and presents itself to customers. However, there are copyright and intellectual property laws which exist to protect the interests of music creators and govern how you can utilise background music in your facility or business. To play music commercially, you will need to apply for an appropriate copyright license.

If you would like to learn more about playing music at your event or business, LawPath’s business lawyers can help you to obtain the right license.

What is Copyright

Copyright is a protection for creative works including music, artwork, videos, performances as well as literature and published work. In most cases, copyright belongs to the composer or creator of the work. However sometimes the copyright belongs to the person who commissioned the work or the organisation under whose direction or control it was created.

Usually, a copyright in music and lyrics lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years after the author dies. After the copyright expires, it can be used by the public without having to obtain permission or pay a fee.


When music is played or performed, the authority or business that is responsible is required to have a license. This license covers the rights of the composer, songwriter and publisher who own the copyright to the music. There are two main types of music licenses:

  • A license for the musical work which covers the composition and/or lyrics and can be obtained from accredited organisation APRA AMCOS; and
  • A license for the sound recording which covers the recorded version of the music produced by the artist(s)/record company and can be obtained from accredited organisation PPCA or the individual copyright holder themselves.

Many businesses will find that they require more than one license from both APRA and PPCA or the individual sound recording copyright owner as the music requires both the composition as well as the sound recording.

Consequences for not having an appropriate license

It is illegal for businesses to play musical works or sound recordings without the appropriate licenses from the copyright owner or accredited organisation. Often the accredited organisations will conduct inspections and investigations into unauthorised use of music by businesses across Australia. If the business continues to use unprotected music compositions and sound recordings without the appropriate license, legal action can be taken by the copyright owners or APRA AMCOS and PPCA.

How do I apply?

You can apply for licenses from both APRA AMCOS and PPCA online. Alternatively you can approach the individual copyright holder for each musical work to obtain a license. The licensing tariffs for each license will depend on the type of business, such as a restaurant or cafe and how the music will be used there. It is important to note that as your business continues to develop and grow you will need to update your license accordingly with the copyright owners or accredited organisations.

If your restaurant or cafe wants to use sound recordings or musical works in your commercial environment, LawPath’s experienced business lawyers can advise you on your rights and obligations.


Want to learn more? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising employment contracts, as well as other legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 1000+ expert lawyers.


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